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Go Home, Occupy Movement!!

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Ever since, years ago, I coined the expression “McFB way of life” and particularly since my intriguing FB articles (Is there life after Facebook I and II) have been published, I was confronted with numerous requests to clarify the meaning. My usual answer was a contra-question: If humans hardly ever question fetishisation or oppose the (self-) trivialization, why then is the subsequent brutalization a surprise to them?

Not pretending to reveal a coherent theory, the following lines are my instructive findings, most of all on the issue why it is time to go home, de-pirate, and search for a silence.  

Largely drawing on the works of the grand philosophers of the German Classicism and Dialectic Materialism, it was sociologist Max Weber who was the first – among modern age thinkers – to note that the industrialized world is undergoing a rapid process of rationalization of its state (and other vital societal) institutions. This process – Weber points out – is charac-terized by an increased efficiency, predictability, calculability, and control over any ‘threat’ of uncertainty. Hereby, the uncertainty should be understood in relation to the historically unstable precognitive and cognitive human, individual and group, dynamics. A disheartened, cold and calculative over-rationalization might lead to obscurity of irrationality, Weber warns. His famous metaphor of the iron cage or irrationality of rationality refers to his concern that an extremely rationalized (public) institution inevitably alienates itself and turns dehumanized to both, those who staff them and those they serve, with a tiny upper caste of controllers steadily losing touch of reality.

Revisiting, rethinking and rejuvenating Weber’s theory (but also those of Sartre, Heidegger, Lukács, Lefebvre, Horkheimer, Marcuse and Bloch), it was the US sociologist George Ritzer who postulated that the late 20th century institutions are rationalized to a degree that the entire state becomes ‘McDonaldized’, since the principles of the fast food industry have gradually pervaded other segments of society and very aspects of life (The McDonaldization of Society, a controversial and highly inspiring book of popular language, written in 1993).

Thus paraphrased, Ritzer states that (i) McEfficiency is achieved by the systematic elimination of unnecessary time or effort in pursuing an objective. As the economy has to be just-in-time competitively productive, society has to be efficient as well. Corresponding to this mantra, only a society whose forms and contents are governed by business models, whose sociability runs on marketing principles is a successfully optimized polity. Premium efficiency in the workplace (or over broader aspects of sociableness) is attainable by introducing F.W. Taylor’s and H. Ford’s assembly line into human resources and their intellectual activity (sort of intellectual assembly line).  Even an average daily exposure to the so-called news and headlines serves an instructive and directional rather than any informational and exploratory purpose. Hence, McEfficiency solidifies the system, protecting its karma and dharma from any spontaneity, digression, unnecessary questioning and experimenting or surprise.

(ii) McCalculability is an attempt to measure quality in terms of quantity, whereby quality becomes secondary, if at all a concern. The IT sector, along with the search engines and cyber -social clubs, has considerably contributed to the growing emphasis on calculability. Not only the fast food chains (1 billion meals, everybody-served-in-a-minute), Google, Facebook, TV Reality Shows, and the like, as well as the universities, hospitals, travel agencies – all operate on a nearly fetishised and worshiped ‘most voted’, ‘frequently visited’,‘most popular’, a big is beautiful, matrix. It is a calculability which mystically assures us that the BigMac is always the best meal – given its quantity; that the best reader is always a bestseller book; and that the best song is a tune with the most clicks on YouTube. One of the most wanted air carriers, AirAsia, has a slogan: Everyone can fly now. In the world where everyone is armed with mobile-launcher gadgets powered by the micro-touch, soft-screen & scream tech to add to the noisy cacophony – amount, size, frequency, length and volume is all what matters. Thus, a number, a pure digit becomes the (Burger) king. Long Yahoo, the king! Many of my students admitted to me that Google for them is more than a search engine; that actually googalization is a well-domesticated method, which considerably and frequently replaces the cognitive selection when preparing their assignments and exams. Ergo, instead of complementing, this k(l)icky-Wiki-picky method increasingly substitutes the process of human reasoning.

(iii) McPredictability is the key factor of the rationalized McDonalds process. On the broader scale, a rational (rationally optimized) society is one in which people know well beforehand what (and when) to expect. Hence, fast food is always mediocre – it never tastes very bad or very good. The parameter of McFood is therefore a surprise-less world in which equally both disappointment and delight are considerably absent. McMeals will always blend uniform preparation and contents, as well as the standardized serving staff outfit and their customized approach. In the end, it is not about food at all. What makes McDonalds so durably popular is a size, numbers and predictability. (All three are proportionately and causally objectivized and optimized: a meal, who serves it and those served – until the locality and substance of each of the three becomes fluid, obsolete and irrelevant. And what would symbolize this relativization and /self-/trivialization better than a clown – well-known mascot Ronald of McDonaldland). In such an atmosphere of predictability or better to say predictive seduction and gradual loss of integrity, the culture of tacit obedience (ignorance of self-irrelevance through the corrosive addiction) is breeding, even unspotted. Consequently, more similarities than differences is the central to a question of predictability, on both ends: demand (expectation, possibility) and supply (determination, probability). No wonder that even the Pirates offer just a routinized protests under only one simplified and uniformed, ‘anonymous’ mask for all.

(iv) McControl represents the fourth and final Weberian aspect for Ritzer. Traditionally (ever since the age of cognitivity), humans are the most unpredictable element, a variable for the rationalized, bureaucratic systems, so it is an imperative for the McOrganization to (pacify through) control. Nowadays, technology offers a variety of palliatives and tools for the effective control of both employers (supply, probability) and customers (demand, possibility), as well as to control the controllers. A self-articulation, indigenous opinionation, spontaneous initiative and unconstrained action is rather simulated, yet stimulated very seldom. Only once the wide spectrum of possibilities is quietly narrowed down, a limited field of probabilities will appear so large. To this end, the IT appliances are very convenient (cheap, discreet and invisible, but omnipresent and highly accurate) as they compute, pre-decide, channel and filter moves, as well as they store and analyze behavior patterns with their heartless algorithms. (The ongoing SOPA, PIPA and ACTA fuss or any other rendering stringent regulative in future does not constitute, but only confirms and supplements its very cyber nature.)

Aided by the instruments of efficiency, calculability and predictability, the control eliminates (the premium or at least minimizes any serious impact of) authenticity, autonomous thinking and independent (non-consumerist) judgment. Depth and frequency of critical insights and of unpredictable human actions driven by unexpected conclusions is rationalized to a beforehand calculable, and therefore tolerable few. Hyper-rationalized, frigid-exercised, ultra-efficient, predictable and controlled environment subscribes also a full coherence to the socio-asymmetric and dysfunctional-emphatic atmosphere of disaffected but ultimately obedient subjects (‘guided without force’, ‘prompted without aim’, “poked, tweeted & fleshmobbed for ‘fun”, ‘useful idiots’, ‘fitting the social machine without friction’). Hence, what is welcomed is not an engagement, but compliance: a self-actualization through exploration challenges while consumerism confirms – status quo. Veneration of nullity!

Ergo, the final McSociety product is a highly efficient, predictable, computed, standardized, typified, instant, unison, routinized, addictive, imitative and controlled environment which is – paradoxically enough – mystified through the worshiping glorification (of scale). Subjects of such a society are fetishising the system and trivializing their own contents – smooth and nearly unnoticed trade-off. When aided by the IT in a mass, unselectively frequent and severe use within the scenery of huge shopping malls (enveloped by a consumerist fever and spiced  up by an ever larger cyber-neurosis, disillusional and psychosomatic disorders, and functional illiteracy of misinformed, undereducated, cyber-autistic and egotistic under-aged and hardly-aged individuals – all caused by the constant (in)flow of clusters of addictive alerts on diver-ting banalities), it is an environment which epitomizes what I coined as the McFB way of life.

This is a cyber–iron cage habitat: a shiny but directional and instrumented, egotistic and autistic, cold and brutal place; incapable of vision, empathy, initiative or action. It only accelerates our disconnection with a selfhood and the rest. If and while so, is there any difference between Gulag and Goo(g)lag – as both being prisons of free mind? Contrary to the established rhetoric; courage, solidarity, vision and initiative were far more monitored, restricted, stigmatized and prosecuted than enhanced, supported and promoted throughout the human history – as they’ve been traditionally perceived like a threat to the inaugurated order, a challenge to the functioning status quo, defiant to the dogmatic conscripts of admitted, permissible, advertized, routinized, recognized and prescribed social conduct.

Elaborating on a well known argument of ‘defensive modernization’ of Fukuyama, it is to state that throughout the entire human history a technological drive was aimed to satisfy the security (and control) objective; and it was rarely (if at all) driven by a desire to (enlarge the variable and to) ease human existence or to enhance human emancipation and liberation of societies at large. Thus, unless operationalized by the system, both intellectualism (human autonomy, mastery and purpose), and technological breakthroughs were traditionally felt and perceived as a threat.  

Consequently, all cyber-social networks and related search engines are far away from what they are portrayed to be: a decentralized but unified intelligence, attracted by gravity of quality rather than navigated by force of a specific locality. In fact, they primarily serve the predictability, efficiency, calculability and control purpose, and only then they serve everything else – as to be e.g. user-friendly and en mass service attractive. To observe the new corrosive dynamics of social phenomenology between manipulative fetishisation (probability) and self-trivialization (possibility), the cyber-social platforms – these dustbins of human empathy in the muddy suburbs of consciousness – are particularly interesting.   

Facebook itself is a perfect example of how to utilize (to simulate, instead of to stimulate and empathically live) human contents. Its toolkit offers efficient, rationalized, predictable, clean, transparent, and most intriguing of all, very user-friendly convenient reduction of all possible relations between two individuals: ‘friend’, ‘no-friend’. It sets a universally popular language, so standardized and uncomplicated that even any anonymous machine can understand it – a binary code: ‘1’ (friend) ‘0’ (no-friend), or eventually ‘1’ (brother/sister), ‘1/0’ (friend), ‘0’ no-friend – just two digits to feed precise algorithmic calculations. Remember, number is the king. Gott ist tot, dear Nietzsche – so are men.

Be it occupied or besieged, McDonalds will keep up its menu. Instead, we should finally occupy ourselves by de-pirating enormous tweet/mob noise pollution in and all around us.    It is a high time to replace the dis-conceptual flux on streets for a silent reflection at home.
Sorry Garcin, hell is not other people. Hell are we!!

Post Scriptum:

In his emotionally charged speech of December 2011, President Obama openly warned the US citizens: “Inequality distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists (…) the wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest taxes in over half a century (…) Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1%. One per cent! (…) The free market has never been a free license to take whatever you want from whoever you can…”
(The Oswatomie High School, Kansas, 06 December 2011, the While House Press Release).

Two months before that speech, the highly respected, politically balanced and bipartisan Budget Office of the US Congress (CBO) released its own study “Trends in the Distribution of Household Income between 1979 and 2007” (October 2011). The CBO finds that, between 1979 and 2007, income grew by: 275% for the top 1% of the US households, 65% increase for the next 19% of households, less than a 40% increase for the following segment of households of the next 60%, and finally only an 18% income increase for the bottom of 20% of the US households. If we consider an inflation for the examined period of nearly 30 years, then the nominal growth would turn to a negative increase in real incomes for almost 80% of the US households; a single digit real income increase for the upper 19% of households; and still a three-digit income growth for the top 1% of population.    

According to the available internet search engine counters, this CBO study has been retrieved 74,000 times since posted some 3 months ago. For the sake of comparison, an average clip of great-granddaughter of ultra-rich, billionaire Conrad Hilton is clicked on YouTube over 31 million times. Roughly 3 million Americans would represent the top 1% of its population. Who are other 99% – pardon, 28 million individuals – interested in trivial clip/s (with obscure but explicit lines: They can’t do this to me, I’m rich) of Miss Paris?

Remember what I asked at the beginning of this article: If humans hardly ever question fetishisation or oppose the (self-) trivialization, why then is the subsequent brutalization a surprise to them?

*  This is the so-called FB3 article (Is there life after Facebook? III – the Cyber Goo(g)lag Revelations). Its early version was first published by the US Journal of Foreign Relations /12 January 2012/.

References:

1.    Weber, M. (1951), Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft – Grundriss der verstehenden Sociologie (Economy and Society), Tübingen, J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck)
2.    Ritzer, G. (1993), The McDonaldization of Society: An Investigation into the Changing Character of Contemporary Social Life, Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press
3.    Zappa, F.V. (1989), The Real Frank Zappa Book, Touchstone (1999 Edition)
4.    Schlitz, M. (1998), On consciousness, causation and evolution, Journal of Parapsychology (61: 185-96)   
5.    Fukuyama, F. (2002), Our Posthuman Future – Consequences of the Biotech Revolution, Profile Books, London (page: 126/232)
6.    Bajrektarevic, A. (2004), Environmental Ethics – Four Societal Normative Orders, Lectures/Students Reader, Vienna (IMC University Krems), Austria
7.    Mumford, L. (1967), Technics and Human Development – Myth of the Machine (Vol. 1), Mariner Books (Ed. 1971)  
8.    McTaggart, L. (2001), The Field, HarperCollins Publishers

Modern Diplomacy Advisory Board, Chairman Geopolitics of Energy Editorial Member Professor and Chairperson for Intl. Law & Global Pol. Studies contact: anis@bajrektarevic.eu

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The so-called privacy on the Internet

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At the beginning of last June, 8.4 billion stolen passwords were made public around the world. This large collection – made available to everyone – is named “RockYou2021” and is stored in a text file measuring 100 GB.

On October 4, WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram were blocked and hence all sensitive data was logically copied upon the initiative of skilled hackers, of whom our planet can boast anonymous categories of them with superior and exceptional abilities that care little about prime numbers.

At the same time, when we connect with thousands of multilingual copy-and-paste websites, they come up come up with a pathetic piece of software that begins with the phrase “We care about your privacy”. And in Italy where “amore” (love) has always rhymed with “cuore” (heart), some people think that users – while reading this – take out their handkerchiefs to wipe away the tears of emotion because there is someone who lovingly thinks of them, not realising that, instead, it is tears of laughter.

Others say that there are laws to protect the few naive and gullible users, but they forget a proverb and a key to political thinking. The proverb is: “every law has its loophole” and the key is: “laws are a superstructure”.

Hence many people are curious to know whether the advertising of the Internet giants respects confidentiality – commonly known with the barbarism privacy – and whether the establishment protects them from the many bad hackers.

It is in the interest of the advertising by Internet giants (the establishment) to use each user’s privacy, such as monitoring the chat history (primarily WhatsApp) or the content of calls, because the methods and means to do so exist. Just watch excellent US series, starting with the gripping Mr. Robot and other series, to understand that fresh and young minds are enough to do so. Imagine what scruples the Internet giants may have in the face of ethical values such as confidentiality and secrecy.

The risk-benefit ratio of the Internet approach is high, as what is at stake is not Kantian ethics (the superstructure) – which is worth very little – but profits in any currency, whether real or in bitcoins (the structure).

There are many ways in which the Internet giants, and private hackers, can control users’ privacy, which are really beyond many web users’ cognition.

It is natural that most of our privacy is exposed by ourselves to third parties. We all know that there is a word on the Internet called “search”. Basically, for most people who are particularly active on the Internet it is very easy – for one who is interested in the matter – to discover the forms in which privacy oxymoronically manifests itself all out in the open.

Most of the time people do not know how much privacy they expose in a search or in simple surfing. We think it is impossible for ordinary third parties to know who are those who investigate web surfers. I am referring to both decent people and criminals. Before being discovered, however, even a criminal has a right to privacy.

The Internet giants and independent hackers have data and systems that we mere humans cannot even imagine. The Internet giants help the police to catch intruders, saboteurs or other criminals, and can often provide very comprehensive information on suspects, including last address, area of activity and so on. As usual, the problem is a moral – therefore negligible – one: intruders, saboteurs or other criminals previously used to be ordinary citizens. Therefore, as they are monitored, so are we. This is logic not inference.

As noted above, the data of the Internet giants and private hackers is more abundant and vast than many ordinary people may think.

When the Internet giants carry out data analysis and optimise advertising, the connection by third parties has huge commercial value (the structure). Hence the motivation and skills of the Internet giants and hackers in data connection are astonishing.

The vast majority of the Internet users, in fact, have not a deep understanding of all this and may think that an Internet giant does not know about a user or another when they connect to a web page or when they send top secret documents to their counterparts. At the same time, the scarcely skilful people – albeit aware that they are being taken for a ride by stories about privacy protection – reappraise the old systems: personal meetings in unthinkable places; delivery by systems reminiscent of old 1950s-1980s movies. In practice, the cunning incompetent people reverse one of the first absurd statements of the digital age: ‘With the Internet, books will disappear’. It did not take long to realise that a book in pdf format is unreadable and its use is only for finding strings in it, i.e. sentences or words.

The above mentioned Internet giants often use the same set of advertising and management platforms for different products, whether they are deployed on the households’ Internet or in the dangerous and ruinous deep web, which is the part of the iceberg below sea level.

If the leader of an Internet giant wants to maximise the data value, he/she asks to check all the “clicked” components of the product, so as to obtain the accuracy of tags – i.e. the sequence of characters with which the elements of a file are marked for further processing – in view of getting the maximum advertising revenue (the structure).

At the same time, the mobile Internet (i.e. the one that can be accessed by smartphones, which used to be ridiculously called mobile phones) provides more possibilities to locate people, obviously more accurately than the fixed one at home. Hence those who do not want people to know that they are at home, and go elsewhere with their smartphones, communicate their wandering location, believing they are invisible.

In fact, if we think about it, home desktop computers often provide inaccurate data to those who spy on us to find out our tastes and preferences. For example, it happened that some background data showed that 3,000 users, with an average age of 30-40, seemed to be suddenly getting younger. Hence the Internet giant was initially surprised, but shortly afterwards realised that many children were using their parents’ computers.

To remedy this, the Internet giants – in close liaison with the telephone industry – have gone beyond the primitive and very common scenario of family desktop computers and Internet café shared workstations for young adults, and made parents and grandparents equip their underage children with smartphones. In this way, an Internet giant has a perfect framework for monitoring, controlling and diversifying tastes for narrower age groups, thus obtaining higher profits (the structure) to the detriment of privacy (the superstructure). The telephone industry is grateful for this, as its profits simultaneously rise, thanks to buyers who barely know how to use 5% of the functionalities of the aforementioned device.

Many people have not even clear understanding in their minds as to the data connection. For example, if the product/desire/curiosity A and the product/desire/curiosity B are used at the same time, and A and B belong to the same Internet giant, it is actually very easy for it to establish a data connection mechanism to share any of the user’s desires through specific characteristic information.

Such a system is used to recommend a product/desire/curiosity or use the same advertisement that the user personalises without realising it. Many people think they are being clever by having separate accounts for different purposes. Apparently it looks that way, but in reality it is easy for the Internet giants to know the relationship existing between these accounts and put one and one together.

The smartphone is an even better container for the Internet giant and the hacker to collect unique identifying information from that “device”, such as that user’s number, phone book and other data. In fact, while the user is not sufficiently security-conscious, many software installations (i.e. apps) already collect various pieces of information by default.

In turn, the identifying information from that device (the smartphone) is used by various software located in remote servers. If the product/taste/desire belongs to the same Internet giant or if the same third-party data company provides technical support, it is actually very easy to obtain the users’ data through them.

Moreover, when the apps are installed, the phone numbers of the naive unfortunate users have been collected on the remote server without their knowledge. This is because when most people install apps, the privacy authorization step by default is simply ignored.

It is annoying for users to read all those long pages and therefore, in the future, the Internet giant will say that it is their and not its fault if it spies on their privacy, because they authorised it to do so! Provided that it is true that if they refuse, it “morally” does as they have chosen. Probably the naive people still think so.

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John McAfee’s suicide: The Internet and conspiracy theories

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According to rumours, the suicide of tax evader, bitcoin supporter and antivirus software pioneer John McAfee (1945-2021) – a British naturalised US citizen – has prompted both grief and new conspiracy theories.

After his evading taxes and dribbling the US authorities for many years, a Spanish court ordered – in the first instance – McAfee’s extradition a few hours before he was found dead. If he had been extradited, the 75-year-old man would have faced life imprisonment in the United States of America.

Former National Security Agency employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden criticised the global influence of US law enforcement agencies and warned that McAfee’s untimely end may not be the only one. He wrote on Twitter: “Europe should not extradite those accused of non-violent crimes to such an unfair justice system – and to such a cruel prison system – to the point that those accused in a judicial prosecution in the United States would rather die than be subjected to it”.

The founder of Cardano – an open source project linked to cryptocurrencies that aims to create a public blockchain platform (a digital ledger whose entries are grouped into ‘blocks’, concatenated in chronological order, and whose integrity is guaranteed by the use of cryptography) for the management of computer protocols that facilitate, check or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract, sometimes enabling the partial or total exclusion of a contractual clause (smart contract) – Charles Hoskinson, praised McAfee for his contribution to computer science, calling him “one of the most mysterious and interesting people in the history of cryptocurrency and computing”. “He is also a deeply troubled person” – Hoskinson added – pointing to McAfee’s well-documented personal trauma from his substance abuse problems.

“The reason for the suicide seems to be obvious: McAfee was 75 years old and extradition to the United States of America was likely. If found guilty, he would have faced over 30 years in prison and it is certain that he would also have been incarcerated […] He seemed rather determined to choose to end his life in a Spanish prison instead of a US one.”

Bitcoin influencer and podcaster Anthony Pompliano recalls that McAfee was “kind, funny and very smart”.

“I once had the opportunity to spend a day with the legendary McAfee on a boat in the Bahamas. I will always remember that day. I have great respect for one of the most unique people in the world.”

Kim Dotcom – a German entrepreneur and computer scientist with Finnish citizenship – is an Internet entrepreneur who is fighting extradition charges from New Zealand over his file-sharing network Megaupload. He regrets that McAfee’s drug abuse robbed him of his potential. He said: ‘He was a pioneer in data security. I always thought it was too difficult for him to be around other people. He should have avoided drugs and instead concentrate on using his ingenuity all the time. When he was lucid, he was dedicated to everyone’s freedom”.

Although McAfee’s legal representative in Spain told Reuters that McAfee committed suicide, preferring to hang himself rather than face life in prison, predictably the Internet is full of conspiracy theories claiming that McAfee did not die by his own hand.

Shortly after McAfee’s official Instragram account shared the image of the letter ‘Q’, controversies and allegations were raised, igniting the imagination of QAnon conspiracy theorists, according to whom there is a hypothetical secret plot organised by an alleged Deep State (which can be identified in some hidden powers) that would act against the former President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, and his supporters.

Business Insider reported that QAnon influencers on Telegram have hundreds of thousands of followers and are sharing posts suspecting suicide stories.

McAfee’s tweets have been republished since the day he died, and one of them dates back to December 2019, when McAfee claimed that the government had threatened to assassinate him. Hence there are many who do not believe any version of his suicide.

Other conspiracy theorists followed a June 2019 post in which he claimed to have a data treasure trove of 31 TB and more, containing evidence of government corruption.

Every eccentric millionaire who argues with the government claims to have evidence of corruption, and if tragedy befalls them, everything will be made public. In the end, tragedy falls on many of them, but the evidence is never released to the media, unlike we often see in US movies.

It is worth recalling that McAfee was no stranger to bold and strange statements, including a promise that if the price of Bitcoin did not exceed one million US dollars by 2021, he would devour his supporters on national television.

In the last weeks of his life, McAfee’s tweets in prison had also become increasingly sombre. In May 2021, he revealed he had discussed suicide with a cellmate: “Today a person who is facing a difficult situation has asked me if I know a painless method of suicide. I have little experience in this field and I am not very forthcoming. Surprisingly, the tone of the discussion then slipped into how to spend the time”. It is worth noting that the businessman had no particular reason for the suicide. The fact is that the Spanish court’s decision on extradition was not final. Hence McAfee could have subsequently tried to appeal that decision. It is alarming in this story that even last autumn McAfee stated he would not commit suicide under any circumstances.

Javier Villalba, a Spanish lawyer for McAfee, told Reuters he believed that McAfee could simply not tolerate being locked up in a prison: “This is the result of a cruel system. There is no reason for this elderly person to be in prison for so long.”

Conspiracy theories are flourishing in the United States. Probably fewer people believe in the “moon conspiracy”, which is – after all – a matter of national pride. The rest of the stories are similar: vaccinations and HIV – a conspiracy of pharmaceutical companies; global warming –  a conspiracy of climatologists; Kennedy’s assassination by the special services – the said special services even staged the 9/11 attacks and school massacres, etc.

The story of Bill Gates implanting microchips in COVID-19 vaccines to track us has also sold well: according to the latest polls, 44% of the Republican Party’s members believe it.

The problem is that such views – sometimes naive, sometimes strange and sometimes wild – often have consequences. Some people think 5G towers are really spreading the coronavirus and go and burn them down. Others refuse to vaccinate their children, and so massively that the WHO included it for the first time in its list of threats to human health. With the advent of the COVID-19 vaccine, this could become an even bigger problem.

It is vain to think that conspiracy theories are about someone else, and not the smartest people, and certainly not about you and your environment. A 2018 poll showed that 67% of Russians believed in a secret “world government” (in 2014 it was 45%), and 68% of them have higher education.

Conspiracy theories are not a consistent story to be believed or disbelieved. Rather, it is a multitude of interpretations of individual facts, each of which can occupy any place on a scale ranging from pure absurdity to scientific evidence. Some might consider the enslavement of humanity by aliens incredible, but oppose vaccination – or vice versa.

Between scientific facts and explicit conspiracy theories, there is a large grey area, within which for each of us there is a completely logical explanation of the world, which to someone else will seem like a conspiracy theory.

Our image of the world is influenced by rather old settings of the brain and psyche. It is influenced by archaic settings of the brain and psyche: detection of apparent and insubstantial intentions; fear of uncertainty; generations of stories and distrust of strangers.

When the subject is confronted with stress due to external circumstances, thinking runs the risk of becoming more conspiratorial, and hence developing the above mentioned four characteristics.

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China’s technological innovations at the top of the planet

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In recent years, scientific and technological innovation in the People’s Republic of China has made great progress and the country’s strength has continued to increase. It is worth noting, however, that the internal and external environment of China’s scientific and technological innovation development has also undergone profound changes and timely adjustments need to be made in terms of objectivity, strategies and task structure. These include strengthening basic research, which is an extremely important aspect as a support for high-level technological self-sufficiency.

As an indicator for assessing the innovation ability of various economies and for making various States’ governments take economic decisions, the Global Innovation Index (GII) published on September 20 is used as a point of reference: an annual ranking of countries based on their abilities and success in innovation. The index is published by Cornell University (Ithaca, New York State), the Institut européen d’administration des affaires (Fontainebleau, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, San Francisco) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (UN specialised agency), in collaboration with other organisations and institutions,

China has continued the progress made last year, rising from the 14th place in 2020 to the 12th in the world, and remains the only middle-income economy in the top 30. Since 2013, China’s GII ranking has risen steadily for nine consecutive years.

Furthermore, in the global “best technologies” ranking, China has 19 leading technology groups worldwide, including Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Guangzhou and Beijing, ranking second and third respectively. The rankings of Beijing (No. 3), Shanghai (No. 8), Nanjing (No. 18), Hangzhou (No. 21) and Wuhan (No. 25) have all risen compared to the global technology city group.

The GII is based on a collection of 81 international public and private sector indicators. The GII 2021 is calculated based on the average of the two sub-indices of innovation input and output, including institutions, human capital and research, infrastructure, and market maturity.

There are different aspects of business maturity, knowledge and technological and creative output.

The report shows that with Covid-19 causing numerous casualties and economic losses, governments and companies in many parts of the world have increased their investment in innovation, thus demonstrating that people are increasingly aware that new ideas are essential to overcome the epidemic and ensure a subsequent era of economic growth.

In 2020, scientific output, R&D expenditure, intellectual property applications and venture capital transactions continued to grow based on the strong previous performance. It is worth noting that, compared to previous recessions, R&D expenditure showed greater resilience during the epidemic-related economic downturn.

From the GII data regarding China, for the three-year period 2019-2021, it can be seen that this year China’s innovation output is better than its input. This year China’s innovation investment is ranked 25th, higher than in 2020 and 2019, and it ranks 7th in terms of innovation output.

In terms of sub-indexes, from the perspective of innovation input, China’s trade, competition, market size and researchers as a whole are among the main categories of indicators in the position of world leader among mathematical sciences; promotion of training companies; diversification of national industry; average spending of research and development companies; average score of the top three universities; development of industry groups; total capital formation as a percentage of GDP; corporate financing, etc.

From the perspective of innovation output, China’s advantages are concentrated in intangible resources, as well as knowledge creation and influence. They include applications for national patents and trademarks and the export share of products in total trade and other sub-indices, which have achieved global leadership.

In 2021, the broad index of knowledge dissemination has made significant progress. The segmented index of the share of IP income in total trade, in particular, shows that China is gradually turning from a major external IP introduction country to a major internal IP creation country.

During the yearly Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2021, Liu Hua, Director of the WIPO’s China Office, said in an exclusive interview with China Business News that, already according to the GII 2020, a number of Asian economies – particularly China, India, the Philippines and Vietnam – have made significant progress in innovation rankings year after year, and the main areas of innovation have gradually shifted to the East, which shows the vitality of the Asian innovation ecosystem.

According to Liu Hua, China has grown quickly in intellectual property protection and is paying ever more attention to it. He said that the 14th Five-Year Plan 2021-2015 mentioned the implementation of the country’s strategy of strengthening intellectual property rights.

For example, among the twenty main indicators of economic and social development, three are related to innovation and creation and intellectual property rights. WIPO appreciates China’s achievements in protecting intellectual property rights and is very optimistic about China’s prospects for implementing the strategy of strengthening the country with intellectual property rights.

Zhang Mizhi of the Shanghai Institute of Science said that China took the lead in achieving technological innovation and economic recovery during the Covin-19 period and has seized the opportunity for innovation and development in the post-epidemic era.

From the perspective of specific indicators, the overall increase in the first-level indicator of knowledge and technology production has increased from 55.1 in 2020 to 58.5 in 2021. Among them, the export share of high-tech products has jumped directly to the first place in the world.

Moreover, in terms of market, maturity and fast development of infrastructure construction, China is gaining an advantage in construction and economic development compared to Europe and the United States, which are still affected by the epidemic.

Behind the increase in the innovation index there is the building of scientific and technological policies and innovation systems.

In the period of the 14th Five-Year Plan 2021-2025, scientific and technological innovation has been placed in an extremely important position. According to the Plan, China will formulate and implement a ten-year action project for basic research, focusing on the deployment of a number of research centres. The proportion of basic research funding to R&D funding has been increased to over 8%.

Recently, the 30th Session of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People’s Congress has reviewed the Law on the Advancement of Science and Technology.

The revision of the Law on the Advancement of Science and Technology emphasises the strengthening of national strategic scientific and technological forces and promotes basic technological research. The project clarifies the establishment and strengthening of a strategic science and technology force with national laboratories, science and technology R&D institutes, high-level research universities and major enterprises as key components.

By perfecting key basic technologies under the conditions of a socialist market economy and a new type of national system, it is possible to organise and implement relevant scientific and technological tasks that reflect the Chinese strategic needs.

Chen Qiang, a Professor at the School of Economics and Management at Shanghai Tongji University and Executive Director of the Shanghai Industrial Innovation Ecosystem Research Center, said to China Business News that China’s technological and scientific innovation has continued to increase in recent years. However, it is worth noting that the internal and external environment for the development of scientific and technological innovation has also undergone profound changes, and that timely adjustments will be made in terms of goals, strategy, structure and task allocation. Among these, the strengthening of basic research is an extremely important aspect for high-level technological self-sufficiency, so as not to depend on the other countries.

Speaking about this year’s GII, WIPO’s Director-General, Singaporean Daren Tang, said: “This year’s GII showed us that despite the huge impact of Covid-19 on lives and livelihood, many sectors have shown extraordinary resilience, especially those focusing on the digital sector, as well as on technology and innovation.

During the heavy and oppressive epidemic phase, China’s digital economy developed rapidly and many new formats and models emerged.

The Beijing Bureau of Statistics outlines that output and investment in China’s high-tech industry have grown rapidly. From January to August 2021, the added value of high-tech production increased by a 13.1% average over two years and related investment increased by a 17% average over two years, both maintaining steady growth. Furthermore, the development of modern service industries, such as information, is relatively good.

At a press conference held by the State Council Information Office a few days ago, Xiao Yaqing, Minister of Industry and Information Technology, answered questions about the digital economy and said that it is developing very rapidly. It is doing so in terms of building new infrastructure, such as the world’s largest 4G fibre-optic network. At the end of August, there were almost 420 million 5G terminal connections.

In terms of development of the electronic information and communications industry, as of last year, the operating profit of the electronic information production industry went above forecasts, reaching 12.1 trillion yuan. It is also worth mentioning that the software corporate income reached 8.2 trillion yuan, and the income of telecommunication companies rose to 1.4 trillion yuan, with a year-on-year ratio of 1.72, 3.27 and 1.26 times that of 2012.

Xiao Yaqing said that in terms of digital, networked and smart industry, at the end of June the rate of numerical control of key processes in manufacturing industry and the penetration rate of digital R&D design tools reached 53.7% and 73.7%, respectively, up by 29.1 and 24.9 times compared to 2012.

The percentage points and the domestic market satisfaction rate of smart production equipment exceed 50%. At present, the development momentum of the digital economy is still very strong, and new business forms and models are constantly emerging, which will surely provide strong support for the development of the manufacturing industry.

The latest report by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology also shows that the global digital economy will reach 32.6 trillion US dollars in 2020.

The US digital economy continues to rank first in the world, with a scale of 13.6 trillion US dollars, but China ranks second with 5.4 trillion US dollars.

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